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NFL Week 16 opening odds and early action: Cowboys a road favorite for key clash vs Eagles

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The NFL playoff race shifts into high gear with key divisional battles in Week 16. Covers checks in on opening odds and early action for four Week 16 games, with insights from John Murray, director of The SuperBook at Westgate in Las Vegas.

 

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5)

Someone’s gotta win the NFC East, and this is the game that will likely decide who that someone is. Dallas put a three-game SU slide in the rearview mirror while climbing back to .500 in Week 15. The Cowboys (7-7 SU, 8-6 ATS) battered the Los Angeles Rams 44-21 as 1-point home underdogs.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia had to scrap and scrounge at three-win Washington, but also found its way back to .500. The Eagles (7-7 SU, 5-9 ATS) got a touchdown with 26 seconds remaining to take a 31-27 lead, then got a scoop-and-score on the final play of the game. That play killed ‘Skins bettors as Philly won 37-27 giving 10 points. It was the only moment all game that the Eagles were covering.

“Everyone will be on Dallas after its performance in the win over the Rams,” Murray said. “The Eagles escaped two weeks in a row against the awful Giants and Redskins. They will need to really up their game to beat Dallas here.”

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-7)

In the offseason, not many would have pegged Buffalo as having a chance to tie for the AFC East lead in Week 16, but that’s most certainly the case. The Bills (10-4 SU, 9-4-1 ATS) bested Pittsburgh 17-10 as 1-point road underdogs in the Sunday nighter and now have the best spread-covering mark in the league.

Defending Super Bowl champ New England halted a two-game SU and three-game ATS skid. The Patriots (11-3 SU, 8-6 ATS) played a lackluster first half at Cincinnati, taking a 13-10 lead just before the break, but went on to a 34-13 victory laying 10.5 points.

“Both teams are now in the playoffs but have playoff positioning to fight for,” Murray said of motivations for this Saturday showdown. “The Patriots’ offense couldn’t do anything in their first meeting, and it doesn’t seem like much has changed for them on that side of the ball. We will be flooded with teasers and parlays of Patriots to 49ers.”

Per SuperBook policy, this game came off the board before the Bills-Steelers kickoff and will repost Monday morning.

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5)

San Francisco learned how quickly fates can change at this stage of the year, dropping from the NFC’s No. 1 seed to No. 5 on Sunday. The 49ers (11-3 SU, 8-5-1 ATS), coming off a great win at New Orleans, suffered a stunning home loss to Atlanta, 29-22 as healthy 10.5-point favorites.

In a crazy finish, the Niners allowed a TD with two seconds left to fall behind 23-22, then gave up a scoop-and-score while lateraling around on the ensuing kickoff to account for the final score. Which, oh by the way, made Over bettors delirious and Under bettors sick, with a total of 50.

Defending NFC champ Los Angeles did itself more harm than San Fran in Week 15, further wrenching its playoff hopes. The Rams went to Dallas as 1-point favorites and got boatraced 44-21, halting a 3-1 SU and ATS upswing. Sean McVay’s squad is still No. 7 in the NFC, but is two games out in the win column to current wild cards Minnesota and San Francisco.

“San Francisco is really banged up right now and just fell out of first place with a loss to the Falcons,” Murray said. “They need this game to stay in the hunt for a first-round bye. The book will want the Rams outright.”

This is another Saturday matchup, in prime time with an 8:15 p.m. ET kickoff.

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (-4.5)

Green Bay will look to remain solo first in the NFC North in the final Monday night game of the season. In Week 15, the Packers (11-3 SU, 9-5 ATS) beat Chicago 21-13 giving 4 points at frigid Lambeau Field, where the current No. 2 seed hopes to spend some time in January.

However, Minnesota can tie its division rival with a victory in this prime-time contest. The Vikings (10-4 SU, 8-6 ATS) went off as 1-point road favorites against the Los Angeles Chargers and coasted to a 39-10 victory Sunday.

“The Packers really struggled on offense in their win over the Bears. They’ll need to be much better to beat Minnesota here,” Murray said. “The winner will likely take the division, and the loser will have to go on the road for three rounds in the postseason to get to the Super Bowl.”

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.